Last week my kids and I were down at the park near our new rental house having a blast. The sun had come out (which has been a tad infrequent this spring) and we had just discovered that the local beach park was also a dog park. These are two things my kids love best scrunched together: park + dogs everywhere= happy children. So we played and ran around and generally lost ourselves in the joy of the day.
Then we phone rang. It was a business call, one that I thought I had to take, and so I answered it. I spoke for about 10 minutes while still keeping a distant eye on my kids. But I realized, in taking the phone call, I had let go of the reckless joy and spontaneity of the moment. I became that guy at the park…talking on my phone while my kids lost the attention of their father.
Isn’t this easy to do? To stay so focused on the ringing phone and the so-called important things that we don’t allow ourselves to truly enjoy the deeper, more important aspects of life. One author calls it the Tyranny of the Urgent, and his little book teaches Christians how to reorder life around the TRULY IMPORTANT things and build a life around that.
This resonates with me in a particularly busy season right now. We must maintain rhythms of life, daily time with those we love, daily time absorbing God’s love through prayer and scripture, if we are to retain the Kingdom Love that makes our lives so powerful. For me, as life starts to get busy and spiral out of control, I lose the very best parts of me. I become that guy.
Back at the park, I hung up the phone, now angry that I took the call (which really wasn’t that important at all). Suddenly a train whistle blew out from down the train tracks that fronted the beach park. “Train!” I yelled to my kids. I scooped up the baby and we ran the 100 feet to the fence near the tracks. And there the train came, a simple ordinary train making its daily track up the Burlington Northern line from Seattle. But for a 5-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl, that rumbling train was INCREDIBLE. It was a long train, but as they watched the train, I noticed something incredible as I watched them. They never took their eyes off the train, not for an instant, and they didn’t get bored as it passed. They stood and witnessed the whole train pass by, not wanting to miss a single car.
And then I realized we must be more like this. We must take time to witness the things that feed us, and take the time to witness all of it without rushing off. An ancient philosopher once said, “Never lose your child’s heart.” And Jesus said it even better: “Unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Part of being a Jesus follower is living counter-culturally: with our money, our time, and our attentions. “Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life,” writes Henri Nouwen. And although a crowded dog park with my kids doesn’t count as solitude, the practice of shutting out the world to focus on my God, my family, my inner self….these elements play into practicing solitude.
The train went by and the kids ran back to the beach. Then I turned my phone off and spent the rest of the afternoon being the dad I wanted to be. All of me. With all of them.
“Father God, teach me to be Your child who continues to spend time with You. Teach me to linger Lord, teach me to dwell in Your presence. I want to know You more. I’m all Yours today.”